Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Random Yam, Potato and Bacon Salad

Not to brag or anything, but I’m pretty good at scrounging up random ingredients to make a tasty meal. This is my typical thought process:

Scene: Late-December weekday evening, 9:30 p.m. I’m in the kitchen, wondering what to make for a holiday potluck the following day.

Problem: Everything I want to make requires either a trip to the store or an oven, which won’t be available at the party. Cut up some fruit and veggies? No, too lazy. Buy something that’s pre-made? I can’t---I mean, I’m a food blogger.

Inspiration: Two yams and three potatoes, exactly five slices of raw bacon, parsley, Swiss cheese and some nice Italian dressing, all found in the nooks and crannies of the fridge and pantry.

Solution: Roasted potato-and-yam salad with Swiss cheese and bacon.

Method, if you eye the proportions: Cube and roast the potatoes and yams in olive oil at 425 until soft and caramelized (45 minutes or so).

In the meantime, dice or cut up bacon and sauté until crispy. Combine bacon and Italian dressing (1/2 cup, about) in a big bowl. When the potatoes are done, let cool to room temperature.

Add potatoes to the bowl with bacon and dressing. Marinate overnight in the fridge. Add cubed cheese and finely chopped parsley right before serving, and serve at room temperature.

Lesson: Always poke around the house before you go to the store!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rice and Spinach "Kasha"

This is another entry in my Winter Detox series, where I make food that’s a) appropriate for post-holiday fitness resolutions, and b) has a comfort food factor. This spinach and rice thing/kasha* is my go-to weeknight dinner when I feel like cooking for myself.

No recipe here. I usually start out by sautéing some spinach with a bit of bacon (I know, not terribly healthy, but a strip of bacon is remarkably low in calories—about 40 a pop.) Any kind of cheese is good in this, as are sautéed mushrooms. Eat your spinach with rice or some toast on the side. Add a poached egg if you’re really feeling decadent. Good brunch dish, too.

*Kasha is Russian for any kind of porridge/hot cereal, and I like to think of this as a kind of healthy, American kasha. Buckwheat—known as kasha in the U.S.—is called grecha (греча, гречнивая каша, or гречka) in Russian.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Product Review: Wafer Cake

Whether it’s baked milk or pickled tomatoes, Russian and Eastern European grocery stores are filled with mysterious and sometimes delicious foodstuffs. In this occasional series, I review the good, the bad and the weird.

I saved this post especially for March 8, International Women's Day. In Soviet Russia--and, I suppose, to this day--March 8 is an all-purpose women's holiday, a mix of Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. If you're from Russia, this chocolate wafer cake is a totally appropriate gift for the women in your life--along with a bouquet of mimosas, the traditional flowers for this holiday.

You wouldn’t think that a wafer “cake” (wafel’ni tort/вафельный торт) is anything special, but, according to my mom, getting your hands on one was a pretty big deal in the Soviet times.

This cake is basically a big wafer, usually covered in chocolate, and always sold in a cardboard box. The brand in the photo is called Kapriz (каприз)--that is, "caprice"!

The best versions of wafer cake crisp and fresh, and aren’t bad with a cup of tea or coffee. To serve, slice into neat square or rectangles, like a good Russian hostess.

For a guide to Russian/Eastern European stores in the Milwaukee area that sell this kind of thing, see my shopping guides.
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